Restoring Sanity to the Israel Discourse
Red Lines against Delegitimization; Blue-&-White Lines for Fair Play
We, the undersigned, representing a wide range of opinion and speaking as individuals,
not for our respective institutions, denounce the growing attempts to delegitimize
Israel. We share a commitment to a two-state solution with a Jewish, democratic Israel
living peacefully besides a democratic Palestine. We do not see how anyone who claims
to support the two-state solution to bring peace can delegitimize one nationalist
movement or another.
Averse to censorship, coercion or any limitation on the freedom of speech or
expression, we urge supporters and critics of Israeli policy to keep their discussions
within the following “blue and white lines”:
Keeping passionate, critical, even hard-hitting discussion within these “blue and white”
lines requires not crossing these “red lines” in discussing Israel, Zionism, and the
- Zionism, meaning Jewish nationalism, is the Jewish people’s national liberation
movement, the collective force that has helped Jews achieve self-determination as
a people in their homeland.
- The State of Israel fulfills the Jewish people’s national aspirations in their
ancestral homeland. This affirmation acknowledges the Jews as a people, united
by a common past, culture and language, rooted in their homeland, the land of
Israel. The modern state of Israel is a natural outgrowth of Jews’ three-thousand year-
old relationship with the land of Israel.
- Israel is a democratic state striving to offer all its citizens, including Palestinian
Israelis, “full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional
and permanent institutions,” as Israel’s Declaration of Independence guarantees.
- Affirming Israel’s and Zionism’s legitimacy and acknowledging Jews’ historic
claim to their land does not negate Palestinian claims to that same geographical
space. History is complex. A peaceful solution requires compromise from both
sides regarding what they consider their legitimate national and territorial rights.
We regret to note that, among others, activists in the BDS (Boycott, Divestment,
Sanctions) movement repeatedly cross these red lines. Their tactics are rooted in the
“Durban Strategy” to ostracize and delegitimize Israel adopted by the NGO Forum at
the 2001 UN Conference Against Racism. We condemn those who reject Israel entirely
rather than debating one policy or even a group of policies, instead suggesting that
Israel is fundamentally illegitimate.
- Denying Israel’s Right to Exist as well as Delegitimizing the Zionist
movement and Jewish State: Assaulting Jews’ legitimacy as a people, Jews’
valid claims to the land, or Jews’ right to national self-determination in Israel,
crosses the line from legitimate criticism to an aggressive a-historical
negationism. Labeling the founding of Israel a “colonial enterprise” distorts the
meaning of colonialism, negating the Jewish people’s ongoing relationship with
the land of Israel.
- Demonization: Equating Israel and Zionism with the twentieth century’s worst
racist ideologies such as Nazism and South African Apartheid, or treating Israel as
uniquely cruel in order to deny it moral legitimacy, is not only demonstrably
untrue but inflammatory, and incompatible with aspirations for peace and mutual
- Double Standards: Calling Zionism – but no other nationalism – racism, holding
Israel and its army to artificially high standards by which no other nation or
military is judged, or subjecting Israel to the kind of disproportionate criticism it
endures in the United Nations, are all acts of bad faith.
- Essentialism: Jumping from vigorously denouncing particular policies to
repudiating Israel or Zionism raises the stakes destructively, and has a long
infamous pedigree rooted in anti-Semitism.
- Promoting the One State Solution - Trying to resolve the Mideast conflict by
advocating one bi-national state in former Mandatory Palestine entails dissolving
Israel as the expression of the Jewish people’s right for self-determination and is
an unrealistic and destructive solution, likely to cause more bloodshed.
- Trying to Undo the Establishment of Israel, Implicitly or Explicitly - Emphasizing the “right of return,” or displaying maps of Mandatory Palestine
without Israel, shifts the conversation from debating borders to attacking Israel’s
right to exist. Those still seeking a victory in the 1948 war seek to keep Israel’s
very existence a matter of international debate, no matter how destructive and
distracting that might be.
We urge honest critics of Israeli policy to distance themselves from the stains of the past
and the poisons of the present, keeping the debate focused on the actions and policies of
all the participants in the conflict, rather than Israel’s essence, or Israel’s existential
right to exist.
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